Time's Last Gift

Free Time's Last Gift by Philip José Farmer

Book: Time's Last Gift by Philip José Farmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Philip José Farmer
or, indeed, to charge at all, started out for Kaemgron. The earth shook as its heavy legs pounded, and its head was slung low.
    Kaemgron turned and ran. Angrogrim threw his spear, and the missile penetrated perhaps three inches into the right rear flank just forward of the upper part of the leg. But the rhino did not even seem aware of the wound.
    Other spears missed or, striking, bounced off harmlessly.
    The men scattered.
    The rhino did not allow itself to be distracted by all the yelling and running figures. It headed straight for Kaemgron and was going to catch up with him within the next twenty or so yards.
    The second male also charged.
    Gribardsun ran in with a spear he had snatched from a man in flight, and rammed it into the eye of the beast as it passed him by at three feet.
    The spear was torn out of his grasp, and he was whirled around violently and thrown to the ground.
    Von Billmann’s express rifle boomed, and the second rhino stumbled, recovered, and charged again, though not as vigorously. Its goal was Gribardsun, who was just getting to his feet.
    The express boomed twice, the rhino collapsed, its legs folding under it. Blood ran out of three wounds on its left side and out of its mouth.
    The first behemoth was also dead. Gribardsun’s spear had driven into its brain.
    The remaining beasts had turned uncertainly and moved back into the brake. Von Billmann signaled that they were now moving rapidly up the valley. Gribardsun picked up one of the spears that had ricocheted off the beast and went into the brake. It did not take long to find what remained of the unfortunate Thrimk.
    Kaemgron pushed past Gribardsun and then wailed loudly. He went around the corpse three times widdershins, dragging his speartip in the earth, and then he returned to the body of the rhino that had killed Thrimk. There he beat the animal over the head with the butt of his spear, wailing and weeping all the time. Then he walked three times counterwiddershins around the beast and cut off its tail with his flint knife. He gave the tail to Gribardsun, who stuck it in his belt. Gribardsun recovered his spear, noting that the reindeer antler tip was loose.
    Kaemgron returned to his son’s body to mourn. Those who followed him also began wailing. But those who stayed to cut up the two carcasses were jubilant. They laughed and smeared blood over their foreheads and lips and dipped their index fingers in the blood and spotted Gribardsun’s forehead with the blood. After von Billmann came down off the hillside, he was daubed with blood, too.
    ‘That was very good shooting, Robert,’ Gribardsun said.
    Tve practiced enough in the preserve,’ von Billmann said. But you, you were magnificent! Right through the eye, and you had to crouch and drive it upward, the rhino’s head was so low! If it had turned on you…’
    ‘But it didn’t,’ the Englishman said. ‘He had his heart set on Kaemgron. Though it is true that the beasts are very unpredictable and he might have turned.’
    He did not seem to want to talk about his feat. But he looked as if he were bursting with happiness.
    Drummond joined them. He said, ‘I got some fine shots, but the people back home aren’t going to believe them.’
    Thammash approached Gribardsun. ‘We have plenty of meat for a week or so,’ he said. ‘And the mourning for Thrimk must start soon. But the day is far from being over, and it would be well if we pushed on and killed more. What do you think?’
    Though he had been treated with great politeness and respect from the beginning, Gribardsun had not before been asked to decide any course of action. Apparently his spectacular feat had made him the equal, or perhaps even the superior, of the chief. He was now one of them - in some respects anyway.
    Von Billmann had been daubed with the rhino blood, and he was treated with great respect too. But the tribesmen seemed to believe that he was secondary to the Englishman, Perhaps they thought this because

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